December 31, 2008
(sort of) Cricket on the Hearth
This is a very loose adaptation of Dickens' original Christmas story from 1845. Dickens wrote 5 novella length Christmas Books, the most famous today being the first book A Christmas Carol (familiar as the source of Scrooge, the Ghost of Christmas Past, Tiny Tim, etc...). In its day the third book The Cricket on the Hearth was as well known and loved as A Christmas Carol. Today it has largely been forgotten. What happened? The plot centers on a blind girl who sadly has her heart broken when her plans for marriage are foiled - this would have been a familiar and even desirable for Victorian readers who believed disabilities were inherited and thus the disabled should be kept from marrying - today it is no longer politically correct and even seems kind of heartless and mean - the book has become a forgotten period piece. It is still an excellent story and well worth reading for other reasons: the Dickens characters, the scenes, the feel good ending.
The NBC radio play from 1945 is horrendously bad, the plot is mangled beyond recognition and at only 25 mins hardly captures anything of the original. As far as I can tell there are no video adaptations other than a 50-min 1967 cartoon version which has poor reviews and doesn't appear the follow the plot closely. There was a stage adaption around the turn of the century that I have not read but was very popular.
The Cricket deserves more attention, the theme of adultery is well done and surprisingly frank, I was really moved by Mr. Peerybingle's grief and his night in front of the fire with the pixies. The scenes in the toy shop are classic Dickens and the final party scene is emotionally uplifting. Until a serious video version is made, which corrects the handicap aspect, it will probably languish in obscurity, read mostly by Dickens fans.